Religious Nets in On Election Action

As issues and coverage heat up for 2012, faith-based channels join the fray
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As the 2012 election cycle gets set to kick into high gear, the usual suspects won’t be the only ones in on the coverage. Recognizing the importance of the races, religious and faith-based networks will channel their inner CNN through next November.

The National Religious Broadcasters—an international association of Christian radio and TV stations—plans to have every angle of the election covered, including both party conventions and election night. Craig Parshall, NRB senior VP/general counsel, says commercial stations “expect a jump in revenue” during the cycle.

NRB, which features both commercial and non-commercial (non-profit) stations, faces challenges with the latter, since they cannot by law endorse political candidates. “The [noncommercial stations] are still going to be talking about where candidates come down on issues,” says Parshall. Issues such as abortion and samesex marriage are two hot buttons for NRB station viewers. While those outlets cannot say “vote for Mr. X rather than Mrs. Y,” Parshall notes they will point to differences in candidates’ stances on those topics. “Some of our networks do a fairly comprehensive job of covering local races,” Parshall adds, noting that those can be just as important as the national elections.

One NRB nonprofit, the Christian Broadcasting Network, runs one-on-one interviews conducted with candidates by David Brody, CBN chief political correspondent, without any particular political slant. CBN CEO Gordon Robertson says that the purpose of The Brody File interviews is to give viewers an unbiased profile of each candidate, focusing on where they stand on issues that are important to CBN viewers. “We want to [interview] pretty much any of the ‘name’ candidates,” Robertson says.

Robertson also points out that the closeness of the individual races—particularly the GOP presidential nomination—factors into how many resources CBN puts into covering it, but the network does plan to report on both conventions.

Jewish network Shalom TV kicked off its election coverage last month with the AIPAC National Policy Conference in Washington. “The Jewish community is extremely active in American politics,” says network COO Bradford Hammer. “Courting Jewish support remains a strong priority for national candidates.”

Hammer adds that Shalom TV will also carry political speeches from the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ Plenum, as well as hopefully having candidates and officials in their studio. Shalom TV also details Israeli views of U.S. voter choices on Israel Speaks programs, involving Middle East pundits and policymakers.

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